A Highland sea loch that may be out of bounds to yachts
A RIGHT good froth is gathering in our sea lochs thanks to Marine Scotland which wants to make a huge chunk of sea from the Sound of Jura to Loch Sunart a marine protected area.
According to chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Bertie Armstrong, this will have a devastating impact on many small and fragile coastal communities on the west coast by destroying the fishing industry.
Mr Armstrong, who is concerned for the livelihood of the scallop dredgers, is not opposed to the concept of marine protection areas (MPAs) but has described some of the conservation arguments in favour of the order as ‘populist and lightweight’.
Of course, we don’t want disinterested trawlermen, who risk life and limb and work hard to provide us with fish at all times of the year, damaging scallop beds and marine archaeology, so there has to be a compromise.
An amicable arrangement has been reached in Loch Creran where Marine Scotland, concerned that anchors and ground chains might disturb a rare organ-pipe worm called ‘Serpula vermicularis’ (commonly known as Seruplids), have worked closely with local communities and loch users to keep the reefs safe by establishing no-go areas.
According to Marine Scotland’s own confusing paperwork, no such agreement has been put in place yet for Loch Teacuis, a short sea loch in Morvern which also contains Serpulid reefs.
Currently, Marine Scotland wants a complete ban on anchors which will effectively stop all vessels coming into the loch.
Given that man has been using Loch Teacuis since the time of dugout canoes thousands of years ago, the proposal is both draconian and completely inconsistent with measures proposed elsewhere. Moreover it would set a dangerous precedent, possibly leading to the closure of other sea lochs as these reefs expand.
There is no reason why an arrangement similar to that in Loch Creran cannot be established in Loch Teacuis through the hydrographic office, the RYA and the marine press if, indeed, the real objective is to preserve the natural history of the loch bottom and not the creation of a private lagoon.
Not enough interest is being taken by local, working folk in the formation of these MPAs. Once established, the effects will be far reaching and irreversible. The agency dealing with this is a public body and may be criticised just like any other government department. It is not there to dictate to the Highland people.
Given the Scottish government’s near obsession with the right to roam on land, it is almost unbelievable it now wishes to legislate against man’s movement on the timeless sea.
More information can be found on Marine Scotland’s website. Written representation, by August 9, either by email to Marine_Conservation@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or by post to: MPA Team, Area 1A South, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.